Family Record Project: Charlie Davis

Davis Family

From left to right, Robert B. Davis, Margot Howard, Charlie Davis, and Robert “Bob” H. Davis.

Introduction: Charlie Davis, son of Robert B. Davis and Margot Howard, is really into motorsports, enjoys telling a good story, and lives in the greater San Francisco Bay Area. These are his memories.

My Father, The Academic Airplane Pilot

My father (Robert B. Davis) and his brother were the first ones to have an education, and

Charlie Davis with father and brother

From left to right, Charlie Davis, Robert B. Davis, and Robert H. Davis.

Dad was very proud of that. His brother was a Naval architect and Dad (known to your generation as Bapu) had a Ph.D in Irish literature. He was a college professor and the head of the English departments of the colleges where he taught from 1962 until he retired in 1978.

He was also a Lt. Colonel in the Air Force. He was the chief medical supply officer for the South Pacific in WW2 in 1944-1945. He also wrote papers for the Air War College and helped establish curriculum for the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs during the 50s and early 60s.

He learned to fly in the 60s and got his commercial license, instrument rating, multi-engine rating, instructor’s license, and, eventually, CFII (Certified Flight Instrument Instructor) license. He loved to fly and to instruct other pilots.

He was an avid reader and loved classical music. He also loved to travel and to entertain. He was a pretty good bartender. He spoke German, Japanese and Spanish very well, French and Italian semi fluently and also studied and spoke some Gaelic, Arabic, Portugese and Swedish.

…Mom and dad went through the great depression and World War 2.

My Mother, The Theater Maven and Master Chef

Mom (Margot or Gamma) was fun-loving, loved telling a good joke, cooking (she was a

Margot Howard acting in a play.

Margot Howard takes center stage.

great chef) sewing, and acting. She was the costume mistress for a local theatre when I was in high school and was usually the female lead’s comedy sidekick in comedies and musicals as well as the dramatic lead in several plays.

She was a phone operator when she and dad met, she worked in retail in the 60s and 70s in ladies wear stores, and then in her later years she was the switchboard operator at the hospital in Hollister.

[We ate] German food, Chinese food, Indian food, Japanese food, Italian food. Mom was an eclectic chef.

Yeah, that was my mom!

Okay, here’s a favorite “Margot story.” I was 14 or 15. Mom was the costume mistress for the Tarkio Mule Barn Theatre. The director of the play was John Ferola, good family friend whom dad brought to Tarkio to teach drama and direct plays. The female star of Man of La Mantia was another good family friend, Charlotte Shields. She had a great voice, and was cast as Dulcinea. John’s vision of the character was a lusty, busty serving wench. Charlotte is not overly endowed in the ‘busty” department, and Margo and Charlotte had been working diligently to pad her and push her up to create more bustline.

I walked into our living room from school one day to find Charlotte in her costume, doing her best to push her bosom out, John standing with his arms folded across his chest, Margot with her hands on her hips. John had apparently just told them that Dulcinea needed to be bustier. As I walked in, Margot was looking at John and said, “John! This all the boobs you get! The girl hasn’t got any more to give! If we lower that neckline any more, you’re going to be seeing nipples!” Yeah, that was my mom!

Motor Oil In My Veins

Charlie Davis Award Winner

Charlie Davis when he won the SCCA’s Woolf Barnato Award in early 2020.

I enjoy auto-crossing, going to road races or any other car event, have enjoyed working for the Sports Car Club of America, enjoy movies, reading, animals, have bred Siamese Fighting Fish, and I’m currently entertained by two cats.

My awards for contributing to SCCA are my proudest accomplishments, culminating in the club’s Woolf Barnato award earlier this year.

…[My occupations have] mostly [been] in the car business. I started out selling cars, but have been in parts or service departments for most of my life.

…[I did] not [get in trouble] much [as a kid]. There was this once, when I crashed a car street racing…

College Lessons

I got married at 19. We met as freshmen in college, fell in love very fast, and found out that she was not going to be able to go to that school next year. We did not want to be separated, and as 18 year olds do, we made the rash decision to get married. There were probably better options, but we thought we knew what we were doing… We divorced five years later, and we are friends 40 years after our divorce.

‘Stairway to Heaven’

When I was nine, I got my first Leggo set. After we went to bed, [my brother] Bob built something with it. When I saw it the next morning, I couldn’t figure it out. It looked like a set of stairs, but there were these sheer walls, missing areas, etc. He said it was the stairway to heaven. I said that there was no way you could climb it. He said, “I never said the stairway to heaven was easy.” Six years later there was this group called Led Zeppelin, and they had this really great song, “Stairway to Heaven.” I think of him every time I hear it.

What I Wish I Knew

I guess I wish I knew more about my Dad’s upbringing. I know that his Dad (Jack, or Newt Davis) died in an industrial accident while working on a powerplant (1924, I think).
I believe his Mom (Doris) was J. Edgar Hoover’s secretary when he was a field agent in Chicago. My aunt Irene, who was married to my dad’s brother John, told me that they all lived with other relatives, since Doris worked full time, there was abuse of some sort in the house. I guess John was more forthcoming with info than Dad was.

A Journey of Spirituality

I was raised Episcopalian, or “Catholic light.” Pretty liberal Christianity… In high school I became a born again Christian. I saw a lot of hypocrisy in organized religion, and I thought it was very snobbish to think that one religion is the true one, and the rest are not. I think of religions as just different spiritual paths to the same one God. I am spiritual, I try to always do the right thing and to treat people with kindness.

The Grandparents I Did Know

Paternal Grandmother: Doris Aileen Fralick

Paternal Grandfather: John Newton Davis

My paternal grandfather died when my father was seven years old. My paternal grandmother, Doris Aileen Fralick (then Davis, then Pask) lived into her 90s. She was very nice, very happy, not a deep thinker. She married Andrew Pask in the 40s. He was the only grandfather I knew. Very strange guy, rough around the edges, but I think a pretty nice guy underneath. I remember that I finally started to get his sense of humor when I was about 10 years old, about a year before he passed away.

The Grandparents I Didn’t Know

Maternal Grandmother: Hertha Kassel (-1953)

Maternal Grandfather: Charles Edwin Robertson Howard (1880-1953)

I did not know my maternal grandparents. She died of pneumonia after surgery for brain cancer, and he died in a traffic accident later that same year.

When I Was Young…

  • My biggest adversity was moving five times by age 13, and always being the new kid.
  • School was okay. I enjoyed some subjects, bored by others.
  • [Technology was] primitive.

My Favorite Books Are…

Novels that tell a good story. There are a lot, but I like Ian Fleming, John Lescroart, John Grisham, Tom Clancy, Clive Cussler, Robert B Parker, Lee Child.

What I Wish I’d Done By Now…

I wish I had won more trophies at the national auto-cross championships, and especially wish I had won a National Championship.

Photos provided by Charlie Davis.

The Family Record Project: This project was started during the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 to create a record that documents what day-to-day life is like for the people in our family, who they are, and what memories they cherish. Even if you’re a distant relative, I’d like to invite you to participate by emailing me at Participants are asked to thoughtfully answer 20 questions and to provide a photo. Responses are edited only for style and spelling in an effort to keep the authentic tone of the participants.

Let’s create a family ancestry record! 20 questions



Oftentimes, the information that we find most interesting is what day-to-day life was like for our ancestors, but not much of that has been recorded. In an effort to create a record for future generations, I hope you will help me!

If you have a half hour or so to spare (don’t we all have a little more free time right about now?), I’d like to invite you to fill out this family ancestry questionnaire and return it to me at

It’s best to start with a mindset of being open and sharing, and if any memories come back to you later on that you would also like to add, please send those to me, too!

I hope that you will be honest and share the good as well as the bad. If there’s anything you’re not comfortable sharing with a wider audience, just let me know and I’ll remove it before posting your responses on the blog (just say it’s off the record!).

I look forward to learning more about you!

Stay safe and healthy, everyone!


1. What do you remember about your maternal grandparents? (Remember to include names so I know who you’re talking about!)
2. What do you remember about your paternal grandparents?
3. What was your father like? What did he do for work and fun?
4. What was your mother like? What did she do for work and fun?
5. What are the things you enjoy doing?
6. What adversity did you and/or your family overcome?
7. What are you most proud of having accomplished in life?
8. What was school like for you?
9. What occupations or careers have you had?
10. If you’ve ever been married, how did you meet your significant other(s)? Yes, I’m looking for those love stories!
11. What is your favorite family ancestry story (or stories if you have more than one)?
12. What is something you wish you knew about your family history? Please include as much information as possible (ie any names and dates you do have) in case someone who reads this might have answers.
13. What are some of your fondest childhood memories?
14. Did you ever get in trouble as a kid? What for?
15. What was technology like when you were a kid?
16. What are some of the foods your family ate when you were younger?
17. Will you tell me about your faith or spirituality and what it means to you?
18. What is/are your favorite books and why?
19. Is there anything you wish you had done by now but haven’t?
29. Anything to add?

MyHeritage’s New Photo Tool Adds Life to Old Pictures

Updates: MyHeritage has just announced that it’s new color tool will be free until April 22 on account of the coronavirus keeping so many people home. They also changed their subscription model so there’s now a slightly more affordable subscription option if you want access to it forever. Have fun!
Sometime earlier this week, I received a promotional email from MyHeritage, an website where you can upload and maintain your family tree online. I normally ignore their emails because they send so many, but a distant cousin had reached out to me on their site just last week and subsequently helped answer a family mystery (more on that later!), so I’ve been curious about what MyHeritage has to offer me. I opened the email.


MyHeritage just released MyHeritage In Color (TM), and it’s amazing. You can upload any black and white photo (even if you’ve patched it up in Photoshop, messed with the contrast, and applied a filter like yours truly does frequently), and an algorithm works in the background to transform the photo into color.

Apparently, there’s some room for error in terms of pixel color, but I’ve been really pleased with the photos I’ve run through the system. I have run into a few glitches with files not being recognized or the processor erroring out, but it seems to work more often than not.

MyHeritage does include a small icon on the bottom left to indicate the photo has been colorized to preserve historical integrity and a MyHeritage logo on the bottom right if you don’t have their Complete subscription ($209 annually for the first year and $299 annually after that – I know. Wowza! Probably this is why I haven’t delved into this site much before now.).

Obviously, releasing this tool is an incredibly smart move by MyHeritage, since photos are social currency online these days and most of us have very little incentive to upload our personal ancestry photos otherwise. Kudos to whoever came up with the idea.

It’s worth noting that they currently erect their paywall at 10 photos, so choose wisely unless you’re ready to sell your house and do the annual subscription.

I decided to try some of the oldest photos and some group photos I have since they would be the most fun to see in color. Here’s what I got back.

Happy coloring!


Family Tree for Our Wedding

Our wedding was wonderful and a complete whirlwind, and the one extra project I decided to take on was to create family trees to put side by side to illustrate our families joining. I’ve done so much research over the years, and Brian’s mom, Caroline, has done even more for his side, so how hard could it be?

Right. Well, it turns out it can be pretty hard.

I didn’t know of an out-of-the-box program or app, so I decided to jump into Adobe Illustrator, which I really haven’t used since I was in college. I found some cool vector images on iStock for a tree for the background and men/women silhouettes for placeholders.

It took a ton of work, and as I was putting them together, I used gray silhouettes for the ancestors we didn’t know enough about – no names or partial names. I was sad to see so clearly that for several branches back on my dad’s side, I didn’t know much.

I grew up with the last name Gullickson, but I didn’t have any firm details about the Norwegian side of my ancestry. In fact, I only knew my great-great-grandparents’ names because I pulled up census records.

Then, out of the blue almost a year ago, I received a message on from a gentleman in Norway who was researching what happened to Theodore Gullickson and who had quite a lot of information about the family from before they immigrated to the U.S. because he’s been researching families in Luster, Norway for many years.

If you’re like me, you live for these kinds of emails! I absolutely love to hear from relatives or relatives of relatives who know more than I do and who want to share information. I only get maybe one every couple years, but it’s always thrilling. I imagine it’s similar to being a detective and feeling like you just got a big break on your case.

This gentleman shared the names of ancestors I had never heard of — Ole Gullickson, Anna Anderson, Zacharias Anderson, and Martha Erickson (I love this last name, because my dad had always said we were somehow related to Lief Erickson, so maybe that tidbit of family lore is true!).

AND this gentleman even knew how Demetra (Demetri, David) Gullickson came to travel to the U.S. with Christine Anderson — he was her son and his father was a Russian sailor! What a romantic story, although perhaps also tragic.

This gentleman was asking if I had ever heard of Theodore Gullickson, David Gullickson, or Oscar Gullickson. They dropped off census records after 1905, and even when Theodore’s mother passed away, no one back in Norway heard from him after 1906. One rumor that this gentleman was following up on was that they all perished in the 1906 earthquake, but I had never heard that rumor out here and a lot of my dad’s side of the family lived in San Francisco for decades, so I feel like that’s a story that would have stayed alive were it true. If anyone happens to know what did became of Theodore, David, or Oscar, please share in the comments!

I plan to do some more research on the Norwegian side of the family, and update you all on what I find.

I’ll conclude this post by saying that the hardest part of creating these family trees for the wedding was actually printing them. So, if you’re interested in making your own for a wedding or a family reunion, I highly recommend starting well ahead of time and using a reliable printer. I had thought our local big-box office supply location would have been able to handle it, but they ended up unapologetically botching it twice. Not that I’m holding a resentment. I’m definitely letting that one go.

Statica en Dynamica

Before he passed away recently, my great uncle, Morris Kool, passed a couple ancestry items on to me. This one, “Statica en Dynamica,” is a real gem. My great-grandfather, Cornelis Kool, earned a doctorate (I believe in economics) and his thesis was this book from 1935. I’ll include some photos here of the cover, inscription, first few pages, and insert.

Researching the Dominguez Family (Part 1)

In planning a trip to Spain for next year, I thought it would be fun to research where in the country my family, the Dominguez family, is from. Turns out, it’s a tall order! While census records from San Francisco in 1920, 1930, and 1940 were very enlightening, I have not been able to find any written documents pinpointing an exact city where my great-grandfather Benito Dominguez and his relatives may have lived prior to coming to the United States.

Family lore has always said Benito immigrated from the Cadiz province in the Andalusia region of Spain, but I have not been able to find any supporting documentation. He was born in Spain about 1885-1886 (that much, census records can confirm), and he came to Honolulu, Hawaii, in about 1910, when sugar cane plantation workers were coming from Spain and Portugal en mass.

In about 1908, he married his first wife, Rita Borrego, and they had several children over the years:

  • son Benito Dominguez Jr. was born about 1911-1912 in Hawaii
  • daughter Theresa Dominguez was born about 1912-1913 in Hawaii
  • daughter Mary Dominguez was born about 1917-1918 in Hawaii
  • daughter Antonette Dominguez was born about 1918-1919 in California
  • I also found a death record index on for a Jose Dominguez, son of a Rita Berreio and a Benito Domingnez, in 1917. He was 2.

They eventually moved to San Francisco, which is where Antonette would have been born and where Rita died. Following his wife’s death, Benito remarried fairly quickly to my great-grandmother Mary Menacho. He would have been about 34 and she would have been 15, so times were different to say the least! According to census records, she was born in about 1904 and also immigrated to Hawaii in 1910. My grandmother Carmen says Mary was from the same area in Spain as my great-grandfather.

They had 10 children:

  • son John Dominguez was born about 1920 in California
  • son Tony Dominguez was born about 1924 in California
  • daughter Francis was born about 1925 in California
  • son James Dominguez was born about 1926 in California
  • son Frank Dominguez was born about 1927 in California
  • son August (sometimes recorded Gustave, but he went by Gus) was born about 1928 in California
  • son Vincent was born about 1929 in California
  • son Fred was born about 1931-1932 in California
  • daughter Carmen was born on October 10, 1932 in California
  • daughter Justine “Josie” was born about 1935-1936 in California

In the 1920 Census, Benito Sr. was listed as working as a fruit picker in an orchard and his wife Rita was a laborer in a junk shop in San Francisco. They lived on 152 Langton Street in San Francisco.

In the 1930 Census, Benito was listed as a bottle washer who worked at a dairy company and Benito Jr. was listed as a butcher. Theresa worked as a laborer. They lived on 53 Chesley Street in San Francisco, which is in the same neighborhood as Langton Street, and paid $20 a month rent.

In the 1940 Census, Mary was now the head of house and no occupations were listed as the eldest child at home was Francis, who was 15 years old. They lived at 2442 24th Street in San Francisco, where they paid $25 rent per month.

Also in the 1940 Census, a 14-year-old James Dominguez was listed as living with his grandmother, also named Mary Menacho, in Santa Clara. She was 65. He, his uncles Fred, Tony, Johnnie and Philip, and his cousin Johnnie Mendez worked as laborers. Fred worked at a wholesale packing house, Tony and Johnnie worked at a wholesale canning facility, and the young cousins worked with wholesale dried fruit. Together, they paid $12.50 rent per month for a place on Bellomy Street. Most of them had education up to either 7th or 8th grade, except James, who stopped school in 4th grade.

Also in the 1940 Census, Benito Jr. was listed as living with his wife and daughter at his in-laws’ place at 1200 27th Avenue. Joseph Bradway was the head of the house, his wife’s name was Lucy and their son’s name was George. Benito Jr.’s wife, Marian, was 22 and he was 28 and the owner of his own butcher shop. Their daughter Francine was just 3 years old. The families paid $57.50 per month for rent.

If anyone has some exact birth dates or additional details, I would love to know them. Of course I’ve met many of these people over the years, but as a child, I didn’t think to ask anyone when they were born, let alone make note of it.

Photo: Vargas Sisters mid-20th Century

Vargas sisters mid-20th Century. (Photo courtesy of Cousin Carmen Vargas.)

Vargas sisters mid-20th Century. (Photo courtesy of Cousin Carmen Vargas.)

The Vargas sisters (from left): Carmen, Genoveva “Geno,” Luz “Lucy,” Nieves “Nancy,” and Consuleo “Chelo.”

Photo of Guadalupe Vargas Marin and Tony Morman

Guadalupe Vargas Marin  and Tony Morman. (Photo courtesy of Cousin Carmen Vargas)

Guadalupe Vargas Marin and Tony Morman. (Photo courtesy of Cousin Carmen Vargas)

This is a photo of Guadalupe “Lupe” Vargas Marin and Tony Morman, whom she married on October 27, 1926, in Harris County, Texas. I have very little information about Guadalupe. She was born on December 9, 1909, in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, to Candelaria Marin Hernandez and Mariano Vargas Ramos, and she died of meningitis at the age of 22. I don’t believe she had any children.